Saturday, February 13, 2010

Arthur E. Rosengarten: Meaningful Numbers

Meaningful Numbers
by Arthur E. Rosengarten, Ph.D

In the following Table, I have listed by keywords some of the perennial ideas associated with the root numbers and generally applicable to all Western esoteric schools. Eastern cultures too have a deep tradition of number meaning, but their associations are slightly different to those of our own heritage. It should be understood that meaningful numbers, in essence, are pure archetypal structures, and therefore are virtually inexhaustible in scope. It is in the archetypal image that informs conceptual understanding, even in the form of number symbols.

Root Number Meanings in Tarot

ZERO FOOL No-thing, Emptiness, Open Field, Possibility, The Void, Unmanifest
ONE MAGICIAN Unity, Singularity, Thesis, Primacy, Solitude, Point
TWO PRIESTESS Relation, Polarity, Duality, Pair, Antithesis, Line, Counterpoint
THREE EMPRESS Process, Synthesis, Divinity, Trinity, Growth, Progeny,Triangle
FOUR EMPEROR Form, Structure, Earth, Elements, Order, Quaternity, Family, Square
FIVE HIEROPHANT Complexity, Man, Spirit, Ethics, Quintessence, Pentagram
SIX LOVERS Harmony, Equilibrium, Union, Choice, Love, Hexagram
SEVEN CHARIOT Pursuit, Perfection, Quest, Mysticism, Victory, Spectrum
EIGHT STRENGTH Balance, Regeneration, Strength, Solidity, Vitality, Infinity
NINE HERMIT Completion, Individuation, Truth, Soul, Triangle of the Ternary
TEN FORTUNE Perfection, Completion, Mastery, Cycle, Reunification, Return

Introduction To Rosengarten’s Lexicon of Tarot

Note: I have divided the Lexicon into 3 Sections: Part I The Minor Arcana: Pips (Ace -10 of each suit); Part 2 The Minor Arcana: The 16 Court Cards; and Part III: The Major Arcana.

The Minor Arcana

To convey this lexicon concisely and compactly I have developed specific ‘meaning dimensions’ unique to Tarot (see my book, Tarot And Psychology, 2000). Each Tarot card should be understood to contain a unique bandwidth or ‘spectrum’ of meaning. For instance, both problem & solution, negative & positive, subjective & objective aspects are contained within every card’s ‘spectrum’. In the Minor Arcana (Parts I & II) I have primarily emphasized the principles of opposition and multi-dimensionality which have then been further broken down into the following four column headings:

exterior lays out the more general and external dimension of meaning, reversed accounts for the negative poles or compromised direction of meaning, i.e. the shadow side; interior expresses the inner psychological or experiential dimension, and finally, spectrum is meant to capture the totality of the concept described. (developed in detail, in Chapter VI of Tarot And Psychology)

I should also note that “interior” meanings, for the purposes of this discussion, will tend to emphasize more of their psychological/phenomenological nuance rather than particular metaphysical or magical formulations. This emphasis is geared more for the psycho-spiritually eclectic student (beginners to longtime practitioners) and I believe offers a much needed grounding before serious esoteric study of Tarot is undertaken.


Card meanings in both Lesser and Greater Arcanas have been approached through modern traditions based on the so-called ‘Golden Dawn conventions’ of early 20th century commentators including Waite, Mathers, Crowley, Case, Regardie and others (see Butler’s Dictionary of Tarot, 1975). Given meanings have also been correlated with contributions from the modern symbolist tradition (see Cirlot’s A Dictionary of Symbols, 1962) with an eye to key Jungian constructs (see Samuels, A Critical Dictionary Of Jungian Analysis; 1986, and Stevens, Ariadne’s Clue, 1999). Single word renderings have additionally been revised and upgraded through a synthesis of more contemporary commentators like Greer, Arrien, Pollack, DuQuette et. al. (see Riley’s Tarot Dictionary And Compendium , 1995). Finally, I have added my own interpretative bents, experience, and psychological proclivities based on nearly twenty-five years of practice, experimentation, and publication (Rosengarten, 1985, 1994, 2000). I would also like to acknowledge my first Tarot teachers, Dr. Hillary Anderson and Angeles Arrien of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, whose rich Tarot teachings have been incorporated into this text as well.


Tarot is primarily an intuitive art based on the blending of archetypal visual imagery within a context of intended synchronicity, or what I have called ‘empowered randomness’. In Tarot and Psychology (2000) I wrote:

It is not the author’s contention that the deck of possibility is some perfectly formulated, all-inclusive, well-oiled, and complete dream machine of psychospiritual omniscience. It too has evolved and will need to evolve further. Rather, I believe Tarot is indeed one finely-tuned, intricately engineered, new class of psychological vehicle with a surplus of horsepower and great versatility for traveling far and wide through the cosmos of the human psyche. (129)

Learning the traditional structure of the deck and the established meanings of the cards is a worthwhile endeavor to achieve before one can truly feel the confidence and authenticity necessary for a more personally creative and effective connection to the cards. As it is said, true spontaneity emerges from discipline. Practice, experimentation, repetition, meditation, and simple playing with the cards on a regular basis, coupled with study and training from qualified teachers and texts of Tarot, is perhaps the best way to gain mastery of the deck. May all users of this basic guidebook apply these sacred symbols in the spirit of utmost sincerity, honesty, respect, and compassion for all beings. As readers of Tarot, we are but honored guests in an ancient temple of mystery and meaning.


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